News Leadership 3.0

December 12, 2008

Atlanta: A new vision for the Sunday newspaper

The Journal-Constitution finds readers want lots of news - in print—on Sunday

With feedback from thousands of readers, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution believes many people who get their news online during the week still want to hold a newspaper in their hands on Sunday. That’s the premise behind a Sunday remake that will launch early next year.

I’ve been writing about the need in many newsrooms to shove the print newspaper off center stage in order to intensify a transition to digital. But I don’t think that means the newspaper goes away entirely, at least just yet. Atlanta (and others such as the Christian Science Monitor) are betting that print may have a life journalistically-engaging and revenue-producing life on the weekend.

In Atlanta, Journal-Constitution Editor Julia D.Wallace sees an opportunity to add readers to a core already devoted to the Sunday print newspaper. That core, Wallace says, is made up of people who simply like print newspapers and local news and probably will pay for the daily newspaper for some time. Wallace believes AJC can create a Sunday newspaper that will draw members of a somewhat younger group—“people who read us only online during the week and will come to us on Sunday because they appreciate that experience” of print news and advertising.

The experience promises to be different than a typical Sunday newspaper as well
.  A key finding of the research—and a surprising one—said Wallace, is that readers in Atlanta want a newsier Sunday newspaper than newsroom planners might have envisioned on their own. In contrast to a magazine-like feel many Sunday newspapers aim for, the new Sunday AJC will focus on news, hard enterprise and high story counts.

AJC also has changed it’s circulation pricing—allowing Sunday-only subscriptions for the first time at the same time the daily single-copy prices has increased to 75 cents. Elements of the new Sunday newspaper already are being introduced and the full redesign is expected to take hold when AJC starts operating new presses early next year.

To create content for the new Sunday newspaper, the AJC newsroom has formed a team of 30 journalists who will focus entirely on Sunday. They will produce investigations, Sunday cover stories and standing features such as the week in review feature. That’s a big commitment—nearly 10 percent of a staff of 325 (down from 500 a few years ago). Wallace says the staffing assures strong enterprise for every section cover on Sunday. Beat reporters also will contribute. (I think a separate Sunday-focused staff should help avoid situations in which beat reporters coming off a hard breaking news week are forced to contrive a long Sunday story that don’t plow much new ground.)

Wallace doesn’t foresee print exclusives for Sunday enterprise stories but may try publishing a few simultaneously. For now, she said, the newsroom is discussing a “Five Easy Pieces” idea that allows editors to hold from the Web until Saturday up to five pieces developed primarily for the Sunday print newspaper.

AJC’s experience may offer lessons for other newspapers down the road. The news organization has conducted exhaustive research and it is putting resources behind the effort to do it right. That promises an experiment both well conceived and well executed, a true demonstration of the potential value of the idea. Also, establishing the role and scope of a Sunday or weekend newspaper may help Atlanta figure out what print products it does—or does not—need to create during the week.

July 30, 2008

Newspapers “do it right”

Editor & Publisher’s annual list
of innovative news organizations

Editor & Publisher has announced its annual “10 That Do It Right”—news organizations that are innovating in today’s tough media environment. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tops the list for its investigative team that blogs and focuses on quick hit projects, databases and consumer protection issues.

Other winners got props for revamping their circulation systems, experimenting with social media, using reader forums to localize international and national issues, innovating with online video, creating a reader rewards program and developing job recruitment sites.

For more on the winners, you’ll find a quick list of the 10 at Journalistopia. Editor & Publisher has stories on the winners here and here.

 

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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